Creating a Strategic Approachby Amanda Astrologo
There are numerous software companies in the retail arena today vying for business and creating new ideas to solve the most complex challenges in retail today across all functional areas – Planning, Merchandising, Supply Chain, Point of Sale (POS), Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Analytics and more. These focuses come in many shapes and sizes, and the vendor landscape can change on a frequent basis. The process of developing requirements and narrowing down the vendor list to what best fits your company's needs and budget can become a daunting and cumbersome task.
So how do you choose the right software partner and solution? How do you ensure the right candidates are identified, an appropriate comparison is made, and your internal team takes the right steps to reach the best decision?
In this Point of View, we will talk through five key ideas that are part of the Parker Avery strategy to have a successful software selection project and keep your business moving forward.
Form the best team of decision makers
Have you ever heard the saying "too many cooks in the kitchen"? Ensuring the internal business selection team is sized and resourced correctly for the task is paramount. You also want to ensure that all the stakeholders that should have input are given the chance to express their views. As part of the selection process, the Parker Avery team takes the time to interview cross-functional stakeholders to ensure we know the needs of the business and confirm the project team is on track before building requirements documentation. The team needs to clearly understand the vision of the company and the goal of the project. Each team member needs to understand their role and expectations before starting the process, and their skillsets should directly relate and support the objective. This will enable the team to make quick decisions and support the overall process on time and within budget.
Clearly define your business requirements and prioritization
What do you want the software to do? Does it stand-alone or does it have to play well with others? Having a clear roadmap to what capabilities are required is critical to keeping the team focused and to quickly narrow down the search for vendors. No vendors are going to meet all the requirements and some will only meet half or less. You may start out thinking the process will take months to accomplish, but once you identify the key capabilities that are needed to fit your needs, the timelines and vendors to consider should become clear. Experience in the industry and in the functional area will help you narrow down the potential software landscape to a reasonable list, typically 3-5 vendors at most, so the selection can be done in an appropriate time frame.
Also, remember not all requirements and software are created equal. Many vendors offer similar overall capabilities, but the strength and ease of use within those capabilities may differ substantially. So depending on how you prioritize the requirements, the vendor choices and rankings may change. This point is the key to our approach. We take the time to understand the requirements and needs before developing any requests for information or demonstrations from vendors. This can save time and ensures that the requirements drive the vendor RFP documents and demo process.
Stick to the facts
During a selection process you will most likely have members of the team with experience or relationships with a particular software vendor. The important thing to remember is not to let those experiences or relationships drive the process, but rather influence it. Development of unbiased methods such as a scoring sheet can help this activity. As part of the Parker Avery process, we develop selection criteria to evaluate the vendors during the requirements process, which leads to identifying vendors that can deliver the needs of the business based on pure capabilities. We then create scoring sheets to help each member of the project team evaluate the vendors as we move through the demo process. The scoring at this phase is recommended to be weighted scoring based on prioritization and can be referenced as a red, yellow, green light approach to keep it simple. There can be several scoring approaches utilized, but as long as you stick to the facts the vendor choice will become clear.
Prepare your Vendors
Does a vendor need to be prepped? Absolutely! The last thing you want is a software vendor coming in for demonstrations talking about groceries when you're an apparel manufacturer. Make sure your vendor is "client ready" and aligned to the correct area of business. The overall process has to be relatable and give the selection group a good view of "a day in the life" for their business. Another part of the Parker Avery approach is to give the vendor a high-level view of your business process so that it can be incorporated into the demo. By doing this the users can see how they may use it, and it keeps them engaged and asking questions. Also, make sure the vendor stays away from the PowerPoint presentation and gets to the actual product. After all, that's what you're there to see. Giving the vendors adequate time to prepare and deliver in combination with proper direction will be instrumental in the demonstration and selection process.
Prepare your Team to make a Decision
How do you prepare your team to score and decide? Prior to any vendor presentation it is a good practice to familiarize the team, both business and IT, with what they should be looking for during a vendor presentation and familiarizing them with the scoring document. The team should have clear direction on what is expected during the process and what the steps will be to get to a decision point. Taking the time to review the timeline and expectations helps the decision makers process the information and come out of each presentation with a point of view. It is a good idea to do a team recap after each vendor session to ensure everyone saw and heard the same thing. This will help keep them aligned and help ensure they are not getting distracted by the shiny object in the room.
Every software selection can come with challenges, but if you are diligent about choosing the right team, have clear direction and prepare both your internal and external partners appropriately, you will have a solid chance at a successful selection process and software vendor partnership.
If you’d like to learn more about our vision or understand how you might take advantage of this strategy, contact us at Contact@parkeravery.com or call 770.882.2205.
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